DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A large contingent of Lumpkin County residents filled the Parks & Recreation Department meeting room Thursday evening to share their thoughts on future development of the Ga. 400 corridor.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said, “We want to make sure we represent what you want to see in that corridor. This is an opportunity to get that public input. That’s very important to us.”
While the development of the corridor is a county responsibility, Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton joked, ”One reason I’m here is I thought we were going to have pizza tonight.” But Norton added, “The 400 corridor is our gateway. We are very much committed to collaboration and supporting the county in any way. With me and the chairman and the council and commission, there is no my box, your box. We are very much one community and we have to get this right.”
The planning process has been under way for some time and Development Authority Executive Director Rebecca Mincey provided some background on where that process stands.
The architect firm of TSW presented details about design guidelines with examples of previous projects they have worked on.
Mincey shared information developed from stakeholder meetings as well as the results of a public preference survey that has been online since Aug. 1.
Because it will be such an important presence on the corridor, representatives from North Georgia Health Systems were on hand to provide an update on the hospital that is planned for Ga. 400.
Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin has already opened where Chestatee Medical Center used to be. Shawn Couch, Director of Public Relations, said planners are using the flow there to help determine the number of beds that will be needed when the new hospital opens in 2022.
Scott Pippin, a planner with Carl Vincent Institute at the University of Georgia, said that Carl Vincent has been collecting input from everyone about what they want to see. “We have met with county and city officials and others to talk about their interests and concerns and we have had a remarkable uniformity of vision,” he said. He added that the talks centered on transportation, zoning and aesthetics.
Pippin added that questions about transportation included: How will traffic get into and out of the developments along the corridor; How will it affect traffic on Ga. 400? Zoning questions centered on what kind of uses citizens want to see and aesthetics questions involved the type of landscaping, architectural style and signage that would be included.
Adam Williamson of TSW explained that his company will work with Carl Vincent to create a design guideline book that includes before-and-after renderings of the project including things like typical street sections, sidewalk widths, walking trails, landscape, travel lanes, building types and architectural styles. The guideline book can be used as an economic development tool for the county in branding. Since zoning regulations are typically text, the book can also be more user friendly for planners.
TSW’s Julia Brodsky gave attendees a brief summary of the input that has been gathered in stakeholder meetings so far. “A lot of what we have heard has to do with walkability,” she said. “People are interested in having more trails, bike lanes and sidewalks to walk on. The types of uses that seems to be of interest to bring to the corridor are office, mixed use, different types of housing, green spaces and any needed services.”
Now, the county will pull all the information from stakeholder meetings, citizen input and the online survey together and staff will make some preliminary recommendations to be considered. The final product will be presented to the Board of Commissioners in December and could be enacted by January.
Commissioner Bobby Mayfield elicited a round of applause from attendees when he said, “As far as regulations go, I’m all in favor of mandating these requirements because I’ve had to live with what we have now. So if you want to develop 400, the commissioner from District 2 is going to say it’s going to look like you want it to look.”
Forms were provided for everyone to fill out regarding their preferences for the corridor and members of the county’s planning staff stayed to answer questions from attendees.
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